Brand Strategy: When ‘And’ Threatens ‘Brand’

People walking through an interior event

The main culprit of this internal sabotage is a simple, three-letter word: and.

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Sometimes the most serious threats to your brand come from within. It’s not intentional, but it can happen before you realize it. The main culprit of this internal sabotage is a simple, three-letter word: and.

The word and can be very productive in sales or customer service. “Our product has this exclusive new feature, and its proven technology outperforms competitors by XX%, and it’s backed by an industry-leading guarantee. And did I mention our customer rewards program?”

In the consideration stage of the Customer Journey, a compelling list of benefits like this is critical. But when it comes to building a powerful brand, that same list can take you way off course.

A Sea of Sameness

I recently attended an industry trade show where hundreds of companies were on display in a sprawling convention center. Months of painstaking planning, investment, and work came to life in a temporary city of products, demos, displays, and people.

Trade shows provide a unique opportunity for marketers. They are excellent brand labs. Think back to some of your trade show experiences. Did one product or company stand out? Did any brand make an impression that enticed you to engage?

Apart from mega events like CES or NAIAS, you probably recall few exceptional brand marketing experiences on the trade show floor. Why? Because most companies lead with and instead of brand. The sensory overload created by cluttered rows of and displays leaves you feeling overwhelmed. It becomes a sea of sameness.

Sameness is the antithesis of brand. Strong brands stand out from the crowd. They say something distinct. They are bold, clear, and consistent.

So if stronger brands are the aim, why is sameness the more common result in marketing? Where do companies drift in their brand stewardship?

Brand Drift

Most businesses start with a disruptive idea and a passion to make a difference. We recognize an unmet need and invent a product or service to meet that need. Our solution represents something new and remarkable. A business and brand are born.

As businesses mature and grow, focus inevitably turns inward. Growth requires more infrastructure and complexity. And in our efforts to support that weight, our sense of purpose and direction can fade into the background.

This internal shift is the enemy within. Our once-clear focus on meeting a compelling customer need competes with new layers of ideas and processes. We start choosing and over brand in an effort to build a broader appeal.

By trying to be more things to more people, we don’t always become more. We compromise purpose. We sacrifice distinction. We water down claims. We lose credibility.

And before we know it, we are drifting in the sea of sameness.

Setting a New Course

The good news is that it’s not too late to rediscover your brand. Take an honest assessment of your position and trajectory in the market. Resist the temptation to be all things to all people and focus on high-value customers. Peel away the layers that are commoditizing your products and diluting your services.

It’s helpful to think of your brand as a rudder. It’s a small part of the overall vessel, but you can’t stay on course without it. Put your rudder back in the water by rediscovering your unique purpose and passion – your brand. It will keep you moving in the right direction.

Application: A Brand Strategy Quiz

Consider these five questions to assess the effectiveness of your brand position and strategy:

  • How deeply do we understand our target audience – their needs, attitudes, and perceptions related to our product/service?
  • Can we articulate our brand promise in a single sentence?
  • Is our brand positioning understood and lived out across the entire organization?
  • Is our brand experience distinct and memorable compared with competitive brand experiences?
  • Is our brand clearly and consistently communicated across all of our marketing materials (website, collateral, trade show booth, advertising, etc.)?
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